Archive for November, 2010

Appointment to view TV is back and this time it’s hashtagged.

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

For most of the 21st Century trend spotters have been talking about personalisation as the predominant force. Tailored for you, and delivered when you want and how you want it. What we’re now seeing is a trend in absolutely the opposite direction. Shared or communal experiences have a much bigger pull than most people expected.

Look at TV. All the chat about TV viewing over the last few years has included the trend to smaller TVR deliveries. There’s been lots of noise about the golden days of half the country watching the Morecombe and Wise Christmas Special being long gone. Whilst half the country don’t sit down to watch one show in that way there is still some Event programming that brings in big live audiences – The Big Brother Final, XFactor; the World Cup. And now, thanks to media that many felt would threaten TV, Event viewing is multiplying and becoming easier and easier to participate in.

In this Age of Dialogue, the ability to join in with friends or even strangers and talk about a TV show whilst it is on air is transforming the water cooler moment from the day after a can’t miss programme to whilst the programme is actually on air. Have a look at some great examples of how social media is enhancing viewing to both TV programmes and TV advertising on the MediaCom MBA blog at

Expect to see more hashtags encouraging this like #laterjools or #hignfy (Have I Got News For You). Expect to see more hashtag content in the programmes like the Late Nighthashtags on Jimmy Fallon (

Would TV pundits and internet soothsayers have predicted that Facebook and Twitter would help to increase ratings and dissuade the audience from waiting for catch up TV or Video On Demand? I can’t remember hearing any predictions along those lines. But that’s exactly what we’ve arrived at. If you miss the live show, you miss the best of the chat. So appointment to view TV is having a delightful resurgence. This trend delivers great opportunities for advertisers.

Behavioural Change will be more easily obtained by appealing to the lowest common denominator

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

The Fable of the Bees: or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits is an essay written in the eighteenth century suggesting that the best route to the public good is to exploit the tendency to vice of the general public.  It was scandalous in its day and its author Bernard Mandeville was prosecuted for its immoral tendency.

This is an early example of behavioural change theory.  I was prompted to think of the Fable the other day when I was invited to be part of a judging panel for Best Brand Activation at a UK festival by Rich Sutcliffe for Brand Republic.  The entry under discussion had done something rather interesting.  Coca Cola drove recycling at festivals this summer by exchanging bottles for merchandise made from recycled materials.  The discussion revolved around whether this had actually given anyone a taste for recycling, or whether it had simply appealed to the desire for free stuff in exchange for other people’s rubbish. 

It doesn’t matter much either way.  Instead of plastic bottles littering Hyde Park during Jay-Z’s gig this summer, you could barely finish your drink before someone swooped on your bottle and took it for a swap.  It clearly cut down on the tidying up cost.  This must have got some people to consider recycling who had never bothered before to do so.

It’s a good question to ask of any behavioural change project you might have in mind.  What about it would reward the subject in an immediately gratifying way ?  By giving them an immediate reward you might  have a chance of changing their behaviour than by merely offering the promise of feeling good from doing the right thing.

Or as Mandeville himself said “Private Vices by the dextrous Management of a skilful Politician may be turned into Publick Benefits.”  For “politician” read planner.

What is the difference between Birmingham UK and Birmingham Alabama and why should you care?

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Jeremy Hunt, minister for Culture, Media and Sport, thinks that City TV is the way forward for the UK media scene. Hunt sees micro local television as a way of helping to deliver the “Big Society” strategy because it will make local politics more vibrant if it is televised. He says it will help to decentralise government and to deliver an increased sense of influence and belonging. At the RTS conference in September, Hunt outlined a vision that would deliver a network of city TV channels that might: broadcast for as little as an hour a day; be free to affiliate with each other to bring down costs; be able to offer nationwide deals to advertisers; piggyback on existing national networks, including broadband infrastructure; exploit new technologies such as YouView and mobile TV.

The City TV idea seems to be the suggested official line for developing local democracy in which Hunt says media must play its part. I’m not sure what the City TV schedule would be, and what happens if it launches on a platform of programming that owes more to popular entertainment than political news. So what if it is less like Newsnight and more like “Croydon’s got Talent” (which is, lets face it, more likely to generate an audience)?

Hunt doesn’t just want City TV to be a political success but also commercially viable. One of his big arguments for this is based on a “related worlds” thought. If Birmingham Alabama can sustain local TV stations then why can’t Birmingham Midlands? The two cities are similar in population (Birmingham Midlands is bigger in fact). And Birmingham Alabama manages to sustain not just one but seven channels.

I was recently asked to be on a panel (moderated by the awesome Steve Hewlett) to give a media agency’s view of the commercial opportunities that Birmingham UK TV might offer clients. As you’d expect I did some preparation, and talked to a number of interested parties. The consensus from this is that it seems unlikely that City TV in Birmingham Midlands is going to reproduce the experience of the Birmingham Alabama TV schedule.

A subsequent session entitled “A tale of two Birminghams” indicated why not.

There is no BBC in the US for a start, so providing any kind of local TV news always belonged to the commercial sector alone. Advertising is very different – you don’t see the beautifully crafted national commercials that expect in the UK. Instead there is cheap and cheerful, hard sell local advertising. There is now, and has always been, very different regulation. So a commercial local market has flourished without the restrictions that City TV has had here in the past. And there is more money too. TV in the states has a bigger share of the advertising market overall. Local advertising has a bigger share of the total pot than it does in the UK. And finally GDP per capita is 40% higher than it is in the UK.

And its 19 degrees and sunny this week.

Let’s all go to Birmingham Alabama 

Traditional solutions remain paramount (for elevenses anyway).

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

MediaCom has long been renowned for the quality of the refreshments in meetings.  More than once has an auditor assured me that the biscuits in our client meetings are more chocolatey than our competition.

Outside client meetings you would normally be hard pushed to find a good biscuit however.  Conscious of the fact that like an army a media agency marches on its stomach and that it can be a long time between the complimentary breakfasts and popping to our inhouse café Meet and Eat where proprietor Fab will greet you by name and supply you with your “usual”  – and to stop people wandering into meetings on any excuse in search of a decent snack – we are bringing a new, refreshed biscuit selection to the tea and coffee points on the first floor.

As we’re in the Age of Dialogue we obviously did not want to impose the management’s  biscuit choice on our people. So last week saw the Biscuit selection election. 

A mysterious all staff email from the legendary Biscuit Beagle invited everyone to the election.  It read in part: “It’s my job”…that’s the Biscuit Beagle talking now …  “to decide which biscuits we order – but I’m going to need your help with that. Because the biscuit world has moved on. In the old days my job was easy. I’d just order some digestives and maybe some custard creams and that was it – job done.

Not anymore, though. Because the biscuit landscape has exploded! We’ve entered a new Age of Biscuits when people are no longer satisfied with a couple of Rich Teas.

These days new biscuits are emerging, threatening the old established biscuit order. Some of them with chocolate on, some of them made of oats, some in shiny wrappers, and some of them even called cakes!

Frankly it’s confusing. Also, I’m only a dog.

So, faced with this array of new and emerging biscuits (and let’s not forget traditional biscuits, which still have a role to play on the biscuit schedule), I need your help sorting out my biscuit plan.

Which ones should I order? Like so much these days, it’s all about advocacy – your advocacy of your favourite biscuits. I want you to tell me why your favourite biscuit should be chosen.

Personally when I make my biscuit choices I seek to maximise dunks-per-biscuit – but you may prefer other KPIs.”

I’m sure you’re dying to know which biscuits came top.  Well given our average age at MediaCom is in our 20s (that’s not me personally) the winning selection was surprisingly traditional.  We weren’t tempted by some of the more exotic biscuit choices out there.  We turned our noses up at new fangled biscuits and stuck to the comfort of the familiar.

Want to know what won?  Pop into MediaCom sometime in the next month and have a cup of tea and a biscuit.